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Seeds of Collaboration: Cultivating Partnership between Bangladesh and the Netherlands


During a courtesy visit from Diplomat Magazine to H.E. Mr. Riaz Hamidullah, the Ambassador of Bangladesh, the conversation evolved into a sincere analysis of his personal perspectives on Dutch society and the relationship between the Netherlands and Bangladesh.

“I arrived in the Netherlands in 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and presented my credentials on July 15, 2020,” Ambassador Hamidullah began. “Initially, the challenge was connecting with people, and frankly, navigating this society, so different from others I’ve served in before. It was quite difficult because there wasn’t a straightforward way to reach out to people. Even when I did manage to get in touch with someone, they would immediately ask, ‘What’s your agenda this time?’ or ‘What brings you to me?’ It was a bit of a culture shock for me.”

“One of the key pieces of advice I received early on was from H.E. Ambassador Karin Mössenlechner of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She suggested that I immerse myself in Dutch society. At the time, I didn’t fully grasp the significance of her advice, but now I understand the importance of it. Understanding that Dutch people often look to the future rather than dwelling on the present also helped me adjust my approach.”

“There’s no rulebook for engaging with the Dutch. It’s about finding common ground and aligning your interests with theirs. I quickly realized that the Dutch media often portrayed Bangladesh in a dated light, so I took to platforms like LinkedIn to share more contemporary perspectives and spark conversations.”

“Building friendships and fostering trust are at the core of my role as an ambassador. While promoting trade and investment is important, establishing genuine connections is paramount. I’ve learned that the Dutch are drawn to excitement and innovation, particularly in areas like art and culture. By organizing events like the Bangladesh Mango Festival, poetry & songs concerts, Food Bangladesh Festival, saris exhibitions, which showcased our cultural richness, I was able to engage with a wide range of Dutch individuals and institutions.”

“The Netherlands and Bangladesh may be vastly different in size and population, but our shared spirit of openness and experimentation has brought us closer together. As Bangladesh transitions from a recipient of development aid to a middle-income country, our focus is shifting towards fostering business partnerships and economic cooperation. The Dutch approach to development has also evolved, emphasizing a combination of economic and social objectives.”

“Last year marked a significant milestone as we welcomed not just one, but two trade missions from the Netherlands to Bangladesh. And now, we anticipate the show The Best of Bangladesh 2nd edition and the arrival of a seed mission from Bangladesh to the Netherlands. This exchange isn’t solely about bringing Dutch companies to Bangladesh; it’s also about showcasing our own companies and exposing them to opportunities abroad. This dynamic reflects the beauty of mutual collaboration.”

Bangladesh is renowned for its vast vegetable and fruit production, making it a natural partner for the Netherlands, which controls 45% of the global seed industry. “While traditionally, the delta plan was seen as infrastructure-focused, we’re redefining it to encompass both economy and ecology. It’s about knowledge exchange, practical solutions, and continuous learning. The Dutch have a unique approach, utilizing a grid folder model that emphasizes consultation and mutual learning among all stakeholders.”

Roy Lie Atjam, Diplomat Magazine’s Editor, Ambassador Hamidullah and Dr. Mayelinne De Lara, Diplomat Magazine’s Publisher during the interview.

Bangladesh, being an active delta, serves as a living lab for the Dutch to test solutions for water management and agriculture. They observe first-hand how environmental factors like salinity and heat affect seed viability and soil behaviour. This collaborative process fosters a long-lasting interest in Bangladesh, benefiting both nations.

“Our relationship goes beyond trade figures. While our trade volume stands at around $2 billion, predominantly in vegetables, moreover, this evolving partnership extends beyond mere trade missions and economic transactions. The seed mission from Bangladesh to the Netherlands exemplifies this shared commitment to mutual growth. As Bangladesh reimagines its delta plan to integrate economy and ecology, we’re not just adapting to change; we’re shaping it together.”

In this journey, both countries stand to gain immensely. Bangladesh offers fertile land, abundant resources, and a vibrant market, while the Netherlands brings technological prowess, efficient distribution networks, and a wealth of experience. “Together, we form a formidable partnership, driving progress and prosperity for our people and beyond.”

Defense cooperation is becoming increasingly important, given the geopolitical dynamics in our region. While Bangladesh may not currently be a conflict area, there are elements that suggest potential tensions, especially with the interests of China, India, and the US in the region. With Myanmar nearby, there’s strategic importance as well, as China seeks to establish a foothold in warm waters, bypassing the Malacca Strait and gaining direct access to Southeast Asia.

However, this geopolitical complexity also presents opportunities. As Bangladesh aims to become one of the top 30 economies by 2035, with rapid urbanization and manufacturing growth, the demand for technology and innovation will soar. Climate change poses additional challenges, requiring sustainable solutions and efficient resource management.

This is where partnerships with countries like the Netherlands become crucial. The Dutch, renowned for their expertise in innovation and sustainability, can offer invaluable solutions to address our evolving needs. Furthermore, with Bangladesh increasingly connected to India and Southeast Asia, our role as an economic hub is gaining prominence.

In terms of water management, there’s a misconception that Bangladesh is water-rich. While we do have abundant water resources, seasonal variations and water stress in certain regions highlight the need for efficient water use. As urbanization and industrialization expand, the demand for water grows, necessitating advanced technologies and sustainable practices.

Our dialogue with the Dutch extends beyond governmental interactions to include private sector engagement. Collaborating with companies and organizations like the Netherlands Water Partnership, we’re exploring innovative solutions for water efficiency and circular water management. This shift towards private sector-driven solutions reflects the evolving nature of our partnership and the pressing need for practical, market-oriented approaches.

While our efforts encompass promoting trade, it’s equally about showcasing Bangladesh as a nation rich in culture, heritage, and authenticity. European audiences appreciate originality, and that’s precisely what we aim to deliver. Instead of presenting a glossy, superficial image of Dhaka city, we opted for a more nuanced portrayal, capturing the essence of our country in its raw beauty.

One such endeavor is our upcoming event, the Best of Bangladesh which promises to be a one-of-a-kind showcase of Bangladesh’s fashion, culture, cuisine, and craftsmanship. Organizing such an event requires meticulous coordination and adherence to regulations, but the end result is worth the effort.

In essence, our relationship with the Netherlands is evolving, reflecting broader shifts in global development paradigms. By embracing innovation, sustainability and building on our shared values, I’m confident that we are building a brighter tomorrow for generations to come.

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